Much has been written about the effective demise of cavalry in Western Europe following the start of World War One. In fact cavalry had done much to try and keep up with technology, and British regiments were all equipped with machine gun teams, while co-operation with armoured cars was a common exercise. As some are keen to point out, there were a few incidents when British cavalry charged and scattered the enemy with the point of the sword, and large cavalry formations remained a part of many offensive plans for much of the war, but the fact is that as mounted troops these men had no significant impact on the course of the war as a whole, although many served admirably as infantry when called upon to do so.
One enormous advantage the British had at the start of the Great War was the benefit of lessons learned from the bloody war in Southern Africa at the turn of the century - lessons that were on the whole heeded and acted upon. Compared to the old fashioned look of the German cavalry, or the ludicrous Napoleonic-like appearance of the French, British cavalry started the war in a practical, muted uniform that served little changed throughout that conflict. The uniform was standard service dress for all units, originally with a smart peaked cap, which is what these figures are wearing, so they are suitable for 1914 and 1915. This was much like the infantry, but a distinctive feature was the 90-round bandolier they wore round their body, which all these figures have too. A haversack and water bottle were the other items carried on the person, which again are correctly done here, while the rest of the kit was attached to the saddle. HaT have given each man a rifle and a sword, both of which were actually mounted on the saddle, not the man, However once the figures are placed on their horse the proper look is achieved so that is fine.
Romantics may not be pleased, but there are no dramatic charging steeds in this set, and we are thankful for that. They all seem to be walking or trotting, although what the quite poor second pose in the second row is doing we are not sure. All the saddlery looks good, as do the folded groundsheet and greatcoats which are separate items for placing before and after the saddle. A mess tin is correctly strapped to the rifle bucket, so these men’s kit is good. Inevitably in reality there was even more of it, and while attempts were made to keep the load as light as possible, these animals usually had to contend with all manner of other items which have not been represented here, but we thought the provision of equipment was fine for models. The rifle has been placed on the man’s left side and the sword on his right, which was the standard arrangement, although one source claims the exception was for lancers, which is obviously what we have here. Apparently the rifle and sword were swapped to avoid snagging the lance, but there are plenty of photos of British lancers with the arrangement as modelled here, so whether regulation or not we are confident even this is properly done.
The British had retired the lance in 1902 as a useless weapon of a bygone age, so it is a testament to the lance lobby that it was reinstated as a war weapon a few years later, and many men carried them during the Great War. The war confirmed their largely useless nature, however. The first and fourth figures pictured above, holding a lance and a rifle, are complete on the sprue, but the two middle troopers have separate arms holding their lance. This means you can have the lance at any angle, including levelled should you wish (we have placed them upright to make photography easier!). One of these, the third man, is curiously holding his lance very near the end, and a long way from the point of balance. It looks very silly positioned as we have done, but it does not look that great when levelled either, since it would be a difficult thing to control held in this way. However since these are lancers who almost never had cause to actually use their lances, all these poses are perfectly suitable. The fifth figure, the officer, also has a separate arm, which again we have raised up to make our life easier, but actually looks much better levelled as if at the charge. Again the choice is yours, so we were happy with all the human poses.
In 1915 it became the habit to place another bandolier round the horse’s neck, so this set has provided these as an optional extra. Due to their position on the sprue these have little detail, but there is enough to show that these all have 10 pouches, when in fact they were the same as the men’s and should only have nine. However if that bothers you then simply leave them off the animal altogether - we liked having the choice.
The sculpting is good, with good detail and nice proportions. Where the separate arms fit onto the shoulders there is a noticeable bulkiness to the upper arm, but nothing too terrible and the fit is neat. There is no flash, and the men fit the horses very comfortably, although will need gluing to stay put.
The box rightly claims you get 12 mounted figures, but as you see there are 15 men. This means you can have one or more officers should you wish, which is a good way to make the most of the space available on the sprue. The sculpting of the horses was not the best we have seen, but the men are fine and in general we liked this set very much. With it being released in the run up to the centenary of the start of the war, those looking to model or game something a bit more interesting than just infantry and artillery in trenches may find this set particularly appealing - we certainly did.